In “expiration date,” Jefferson Vann explains why the death of Ananias and Sapphira was a real death, not simply the departure of their “immortal souls.”
I have a routine that I like to follow every morning. Part of that routine is writing a short devotional thought, and posting in online (https://marmsky.com/). After I do that, I usually go back to the scriptures, and translate a passage from the original Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic. That translated text will eventually become the basis for another devotional in a few months.
This morning’s text I translated was in Acts 5. I will include some of the surrounding text to give you the context:
Acts 4:36-5:11 (JDV)
Acts 4:36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus by birth, the one the missionaries called Barnabas (which is translated Son of Encouragement),
Acts 4:37 sold a field he owned, brought the money, and laid it at the missionaries’ feet.
Acts 5:1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property.
Acts 5:2 However, he put aside for himself part of the proceeds with his wife’s knowledge, and brought a portion of it and laid it at the missionaries’ feet.
Acts 5:3 “Ananias,” Peter asked, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Sacred Breath and put aside for yourself from the proceeds of the land?
Acts 5:4 Didn’t it stay yours while it stayed with you? And after it was sold, wasn’t it under your jurisdiction? Why is it that you planned this thing in your heart? You have not lied to people but to God.”
Acts 5:5 When he heard these words, Ananias fell and stopped breathing, and a great fear came on all who heard.
Acts 5:6 The young men got up, wrapped his body, carried him out, and buried him.
Acts 5:7 About three hours later, his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.
Acts 5:8 “Tell me,” Peter reacted to her, “did you sell the land for this price?” “Yes,” she said, “for that price.”
Acts 5:9 Then Peter said to her, “Why did you agree to test the Breath of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.”
Acts 5:10 Instantly she fell at his feet and stopped breathing. When the young men came in, they found her dead, carried her out, and buried her beside her husband.
Acts 5:11 Then great fear came on the whole church and on all who heard these things.
When Luke described the deaths of Ananias (verse 5) and Sapphira (verse 10), he used the word ἐκψύχω (ekpsuchō) – a very interesting choice. He said that both of them fell and stopped breathing.
The NASB and ESV translate it as “breathed his last” and “breathed her last.”
The KJV translates it as “gave up the ghost” and “yielded up the ghost.”
The NET, WEB, NIV and LEB simply translate it as “he died” and “she died.”
The CSB translates it as “he dropped dead” and “she dropped dead.”
The strange term only appears three times in Acts – here and in 12:23. In each case it is describing a person who has died. Danker’s Greek lexicon suggests that they refer to dying “on the spot.”
The verb ἐκψύχω is a combination of the preposition ἐκ (ek) and the verb ψύχω (psuchō), which is used in Matthew 24:12 of love growing cold. Perhaps Luke used this word to suggest that the bodies of Ananias and Sapphira turned cold as soon as they died.
But why did the KJV translators use the phrase “give up the ghost?”
Perhaps it was because ψύχω is related to ψυχή (psuchē) – a word that the KJV translors rendered “soul.” A body without its ψυχή (soul) will ψύχω (grow cold).
The KJV translators apparently believed that human beings possessed immortal life within them, which would leave their body at death. The body would grow cold after the departure of that immortal life.
Why don’t the modern translations follow the KJV tradition in Acts 5: 5, 10?
Danker defines ψυχή as ‘a quality without which a body is physically dead.’ But he stops short at suggesting that the ψυχή is the person himself.
Our study of ψυχή has concluded that it – like its Old Testament Hebrew נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) – originally referred to the throat, and came to mean the life inside a breathing being.
The Latin Vulgate uses the word exspiravit to translate ἐκψύχω. It means to breathe out, to exhale, to expire, to cease, to die.
My conclusion (as reflected in my translation) is that Luke was not referring to the loss of this couple’s immortal souls. He was simply stating that they both stopped breathing. They had reached their expiration date.
Unless the Lord returns beforehand, you and I will also have an expiration date. But when he does return, he plans to recreate our bodies and breathe life back into them. It is this resurrection date, not our expiration date, that really matters.
Conditionalists do not believe in salvation by death. We believe in salvation by Christ, and he promises to raise us to immortal life when he returns. We put our trust not in some supposed part of us which already has immortality, but in our Saviour, who promised to replace this temporary life with a permanent one.